Here's What's Next For 'Heartbeat Bill' After Judge's Ruling

ATLANTA, GA — A federal judge in Atlanta on Tuesday blocked Georgia’s controversial new abortion law from going into effect next year until a challenge to the law makes it way through the judicial system. On Tuesday, Judge Steve C. Jones blocked the new law, known as the “Heartbeat Bill,” from taking effect Jan. 1. Several groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, are challenging the law in court, claiming it is unconstitutional.

Jones, who was appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama, wrote, “Under no circumstances whatsoever may a State prohibit or ban abortions at any point prior to viability, no matter what interests the State asserts to support it.”

The bill is now in a holding pattern until court challenges to the new law make their way through the nation’s judicial system.

“The ruling is disappointing but, sadly, not unexpected,” said Cole Muzio, Family Policy Alliance of Georgia president and executive director. ” We have long known that the fight to end one of history’s greatest injustices would be a long one, and we remain optimistically steadfast. Bad science, faulty precedent, and an illogical, radical agenda have, for too long, dictated that the preborn lack the most basic right to life. We look forward with great hope to that changing with the recognition of Georgia’s right to protect its most vulnerable citizens.”

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Fulfilling a campaign commitment, Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill into law earlier this year. The bill outlaws most abortions after about six weeks, which is when a fetal heartbeat is usually first detected. Kemp did not issue a statement after Tuesday’s ruling.

The bill, which was sponsored by state Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), would allow abortions in cases where the mother’s life or health is in danger, or in cases of medical emergency. The bill also says even an unborn child at any stage of development in the womb would be included in state population-based counts.

Georgia is the fourth state to pass such a measure, joining Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio. More than 250 bills restricting abortions have been filed in 41 states this year, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research and advocacy group.

Read more: ‘Heartbeat Bills’ Give Lawmakers Pause On Anti-Abortion Tactics

House Bill 481 was by far the most controversial law passed by the most recent General Assembly session. The bill drew strong and vocal opposition from women’s rights groups and Democrats, as well as supporters.